ACC Tournament: When The Season Comes Down To A Coin FlipPosted by mpatton on March 9th, 2012
Winning close games isn’t all about skill. Certainly the best team will come out on top more often than not. But when a game is decided in the final possession–or even the final minute–skill is trumped by chance. It certainly helps if a 90% foul shooter goes to the line to ice a game, but he still misses every one out of ten free throws. He’s not taking ten, he’s taking one. That’s why winning really close games is as much a matter of luck as it is skill.
Now, after splitting a series of two coin flips with NC State, Virginia may be looking at a trip to the NIT. The Cavaliers won the first meeting in Raleigh by a point. The Wolfpack came back and won the rubber match in Atlanta by three. Virginia got outplayed in the second half. CJ Leslie continued his torrid stretch with the best performance of the ACC Tournament, going 9-11 from the field for 19 points to go with a game-leading 14 rebounds. Two monster threes to answer Cavalier runs from Lorenzo Brown (one with 16:44 left in the game after Virginia cut the lead to one and one seven minutes later after it cut the lead to three) complimented Leslie’s performance and propelled the Wolfpack to victory.
I’m going to make two cases: why you should pull for the Selection Committee to call Virginia’s name this weekend, and why I think they should.
Starting with the second argument, Virginia’s profile isn’t scintillating but it’s solid. The most glaring part of Virginia’s profile are the three RPI 100-2oo losses (to TCU, against Virginia Tech and at Clemson). They also own a 3-6 record against the RPI top-50 (updating NC State’s ranking), and a 4-0 record against teams ranked 51-100. That’s a relatively weak profile that has enough meat on it to be in the 11-12 conversation. Now factor in the eye test: the Cavaliers’ style isn’t pretty, but they played Duke to a one possession game on the road, North Carolina to a one possession game at home and Florida State twice to a one possession game. That’s four games (against the ACC’s top three teams) decided by one possession. Close wins shouldn’t count for much, but when we’re talking about a borderline team I think they should count for something.
Subjectively, fans of college basketball should be pulling for the Cavaliers two nights from now. After the game, Tony Bennett and Mike Scott came and talked with the media. Bennett started off with a fairly standard set of opening remarks, complimenting both team’s performance. One reporter proceeded to ask both Scott and his coach whether they thought Virginia would receive an at-large bid. Bennett’s response hammered home that he didn’t have any control over the committee’s decision. Then Scott, who no one would deem loquacious, offered this answer: “I’ve never been to the tournament, so I’m hoping they will put us in there.”
He wasn’t particularly emotional about it, but for me it was a painful reminder of everything Scott went through over the past two seasons. Obviously, the injury was a setback. But after being granted a medical redshirt, this year became his chance. The Cavaliers were picked fourth in the preseason ACC poll and bulldozed their way through an average nonconference schedule. Suddenly in the top-25 for the first time since Sean Singletary’s tenure, they looked like locks for the NCAA tournament.
They ended up finishing fourth in the conference despite multiple transfers and injuries, but the resume lacked quality wins. Especially against frontcourt-oriented teams like Florida State in North Carolina (three games that came after Assane Sene’s injury), Sene’s presence would’ve definitely changed the game. Scott was the most valuable player in the conference, dominating his team’s possessions more effectively than anyone in the league. He should be an All-American candidate, and has earned a shot to play on the biggest stage once.